Pat McCarthy, who was imprisoned without trial by the British in the early 1970s for alleged membership of the (Official) Irish Republican Army and who later became an SDLP mayor of Belfast from 2006-7, has defended his decision to accept an award from the United Kingdom’s head of state making him a “Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (MBE). The Belfast Telegraph reports that:
“Defending his decision Mr McCarthy who was interned in 1971 said it “doesn’t make me any less Irish”.
He told the BBC Stephen Nolan Show: “It came completely out of the blue and when I made inquiries as to who had nominated me I felt very humbled and I thought it was a worthwhile accepting it.
“We are living in 2016 it’s not 1916 we have moved on from them.””
Yes, Ireland may have moved on from the “them” of 1916 (or 1969) but it seems that Pat McCarthy and the UK has not. For how else would one describe an anachronistic system like imperial orders (for an empire that no longer exists outside of the island of Britain and the occupied north-east of this island), or a ruling class based upon conditions of royal blood and noble lines, of earls and dames, knights and baronesses? McCarthy criticises others for living in the past while he embraces it, and the faux-aristocratic pretensions that go with it. Forget about questions of Irishness or nationality, what about questions of social democracy, civil republicanism and political modernism?
Not so much 1916 as 1716.
Meanwhile, have a read of Daniel Collins’ excellent analysis of the latest controversy over the two soccer teams which represent this island nation at the level of international football. Both may be be invited to Belfast City Hall for a civic reception. Some leaders of political unionism are deeply unhappy, as you might expect, though I particularly enjoyed the rant by wee Jamie Bryson about the “…national team of Northern Ireland“. Since when did the British-administered north-east of Ireland become a separate nation or nation-state? It is and always has been part of the Irish nation, the island of Ireland and its islands. All else is just smoke and mirrors.